This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Seattle author Laurie Frankel weaves a powerful story of a family built outside the expected social constructs of 'family.' Mom is the breadwinner, an ER doctor, and dad is a writer, storyteller, and equal caregiver for their family of five, four boys and baby Claude. Yet as Claude grows, Rosie and Penn see their child as a shy, withdrawn little boy, not realizing that an extroverted, giggly little girl is dying to be seen outside the biological boundaries and rules. As the story unfolds, we see the struggles of the family to help Claude become Poppy, we hear the ongoing metaphor of dad's fairytale of Grumwald and Princess Stephanie as these characters help the children navigate life, and we become completely enveloped in this family as the scene changes from Wisconsin, to Seattle, and even to Thailand.
The pressure on all the family members to keep Poppy's secret becomes unbearable, resulting in far more than what is expected. Fascinating supporting characters bring even more magic to this story: the delightful social worker, Mr. Tongo, who helps Penn and Rosie see parenting in an often hilarious yet realistic way; the quirky four boys in the family and how they embrace not only their new sister, but their own social oddities; and my personal favorite, K, the medic/nurse/refugee in Thailand who puts Claude/Poppy's life in perspective with Buddha and the multiple lives we live.
As Frankel weaves the fairytale motif throughout this gorgeous book, I was in awe of her ability to show us the depth of this family; often I found myself thinking "Yep, this is exactly how a family sounds after an awkward school dance." Laurie Frankel has written a beautiful new book, coming out January 24 (preorder now in Village Books or online!), with an author visit at Village Books in Fairhaven on January 27. I will be in the front row, ready to applaud this incredible story of what makes us family, and of the message to love and accept and not to judge and condemn.